Promoting Equity with Youth Diversion

Key Points

Diversion from the youth justice system better harnesses family and community resources and is a powerful way to hold youth accountable in a way that promotes positive development and limits the harms associated with justice involvement. For these reasons, we should expand access to diversion at the earliest point possible.
Although youth arrests and crime is down, racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system remain a major issue. When youth of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are treated differently, it directly harms fairness and procedural justice, and should concern us all.
At the point of diversion, racial and ethnic disparities can occur for many reasons, including the differential use of diversion or unnecessary limitations on eligibility. However, a number of policy solutions can make diversion more effective and equitable: (1) expanding eligibility for diversion while avoiding expanding the net of who becomes system-involved, (2) making diversion for certain offenses automatic, (3) utilizing data to promote best practices, and (4) formulating programs to set all youth up for success.

“The full potential of diversion policies and programs are undermined when youth of different racial and ethnic backgrounds do not have the same opportunities to be diverted and are not offered programs with their individual needs in mind.”

Press release: Justice for all in juvenile justice

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